Constellation Analysis

A constellation analysis is a method of technology, innovation and sustainability research developed at the Zentrum Technik und Gesellschaft/TU Berlin. It is used to visualize the manifold interdependencies between technology, nature, actors and various framework conditions and it makes these interdependencies discussable. After defining a thematic and/or local focus, questions are analyzed by mapping the decision-making structures of the relevant actors and institutions.

Complex problem constellations, as they are frequently encountered in sustainable, future-oriented urban development, often lead to blockades that are difficult to analyze and resolve. In this case, the constellation analysis serves to identify obstacles and to question framework conditions by visualizing interrelationships. The current state can first be recorded with local key players, to which discussions can be linked. For example: What common goals can be identified? Why can’t certain projects be implemented? From this, options for jointly action can then be derived and strategies developed.

In addition to the actors, the representation of the constellations shows relations and possible dependencies between the actors as well as with their environment. In this way, potentials and obstacles with regard to possible changes can be identified from different actor perspectives. Constellation analysis can therefore be used as a versatile method and opens up the possibility of making complex issues discussable within the circle of different scientific disciplines, but also between science and practice.

The constellation analysis in local transformation processes

In preparation for the constellation analysis, a study area (here a section of Neu-Hohenschönhausen) is first selected and a topic relevant to the changes in the neighborhood is agreed upon (here: new construction, climate protection and land competition). Actors who could play a role for the specific topic on site are identified and interviewed about their experiences: residents of the neighborhood, local politics and administration, local businesses and initiatives and municipal utilities. Other relevant actors can also be named by them.

Subsequently, longer guided interviews are conducted with these selected key actors, in which, e.g., their own goals, structures and resources are queried, as well as their experiences with on-site implementation, e.g., which projects on the topic have already been carried out, which plans or proposals exist and which cooperations already have been established.

  • The interviews are the basis for an initial representation of the constellation, which visualizes structures on site and relationships between the participants.
  • The visualization is a tool to discuss constellations jointly with different actors in workshops and to develop it further by corrections and detailing.
  • Finally, concrete measures are derived from this and strategic steps are developed. The main objective of the constellation analysis is to bring the stakeholders into conversation with each other in order to identify obstacles and to jointly create the basis so that desirable transformation processes are enabled.

Senior Research Group

Today’s Senior Research Group (SRG) was founded in 1997 as part of the DFG project “SENTHA” (senior-friendly technology in everyday life at home) and has been operating as sentha e.V. since 2016, whereby the range of activities has continuously expanded. Today, the group of about 15 seniors* participates in a variety of research projects and develops and works on its own research questions beyond everyday life. These include all questions concerning the needs of older people and the usability of technical developments for them. Besides the design and furnishing of homes, questions like how seniors move in their everyday lives, which means of transport they use and why, and how urban outdoor spaces can be designed to be barrier-free are also part of it.

Recently, there has been an increased interest in the topic of mobility. In addition to the detailed analysis of a Berlin train station, subjects of everyday mobility and related questions of technology use, accessibility and availability are discussed by the senior citizens for various application contexts.

In Neu-Hohenschönhausen, SRG supplements the discussion framework with its own inspections, on-site interviews and suggestions for change based on their perspective. With a great deal of creativity and based on their own abundand experience, the living situation of various residents is exemplarily recreated and presented in order to provide discussion impulses for developing the neighborhood.

Urban transformation

The term “transformation” generally refers to the transition from one system to another. In contrast “urban transformation” is an approach that aims to identify development opportunities for cities and municipalities toward greater sustainability.

The question “How can sustainability aspects be taken more into account in their development?” is set in the context of numerous changes to which they are exposed: demographic change, growth and shrinkage, economic ups and downs, digitalization, climate change, etc. In order to achieve greater sustainability in environmental, economic and social terms, urban development objectives must therefore be completely redefined. New approaches must be developed. For example, it is now quite common for local ideas, actors and solution approaches to be more closely involved in processes – not only in discussions, but also in concept and measure development and implementation.

In practice, small and medium-sized cities and municipalities have long been pioneers of sustainable development. From experience, it is clear that a more “proactive focus” on creating innovation and change processes is essential for urban transformation. Creating change is so difficult because it is necessary to understand which structures have which (positive or negative) impacts and where the appropriate entry points for meaningful and feasible change are. For example, not all sustainability issues can be solved at the neighborhood level, just as any sustainability strategy actors need to implement it. However, in order to find out which goals and measures are feasible and meaningful, space and time are required to test them out.

Living labs are a concrete approach to enable this experimentation.

Dr. Gabriele Wendorf – Zentrum Technik und Gesellschaft, TU Berlin